Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

A bit of history

In 1657, a giant granite rock glistening in the sun after a rainstorm was seen by Abraham Gabemma while he was searching for additional meat resources for the new Dutch immigrants at the Cape of Good Hope. He named this granite rock, “de Diamondt” and “de Peerlberg”, which translates to “The Diamond” and “Pearl Mountain”.

35 Years after the arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck at the Cape, in 1687, some Dutch settlers were given land for farming on the banks of the Berg River nearby. The perfect conditions for farming such as fertile soil and the Mediterranean-like climate of this region, gave a major advantage for the settlers to plant orchards, vegetables gardens and above all, vineyards, which today produce some of the best red wines in the world.

Paarl Mountain was declared a National Monument in 1963 and in 1977 it was also declared a Nature Reserve. Today “de Diamondt” and “de Peerlberg” is known as Paarl Mountain.                                                                                                                                                     

Paarl’s history has been formed by a complex set of circumstances and started with the nomadic tribes that used to frequently visit the valley, searching for grazing land for their cattle and sheep. These nomads already saw the unique rock formation, which served as a landmark to them.

At that stage the Mountain was known as “Skilpad” Mountain (Tortoise Mountain). It was only after the arrival of Abraham Gabemma in 1957 in the Berg River Valley, that it was discovered that the huge granite rocks (3rd largest outcrops in the world) glisten in the sunlight after a shower and the area was called ‘Peerlbergh’ or Paarl Mountain.

Ecological and Geological Overview

Paarl Mountain’s granite belongs to a group of granites known as the Cape Granite, known to have intruded into the crust of the earth between about 548 million years ago, up to the last events at about 488 million years ago. Paarl Mountain consists of several separate granites, which represents minor phases of intrusion of the same main event.

On the most part of the mountain is found a variety known as Bretagne Granite after its type area. Its feldspar grains are relatively coarse-grained giving the granite of Bretagne Rock its distinctive appearance.

The de Hoop granite quarry, which is located on the South-Eastern slopes of Paarl Mountain, mines Laborie Granite. Its tradename is Paarl Grey Granite. The Laborie Granite, which also makes Paarl Rock, has a medium-sized grains all more or less the same size, giving it good characteristics as a dimension stone.

The three remaining granite types on Paarl Mountain are less common. Bethel Dam Granite is a relatively fine-grained variety which occurs only near the Western shores of Bethel Dam. The Montvue Granite is mostly fine-grained with conspicuous individual large feldspar crystals and occurs mostly along the Northern and North-Eastern Parts of Paarl Mountain.

The fifth granite, is known by its scientific name, ‘quartz porphyry’, and occurs as a number of very narrow cracks, ranging from the Southern end of Paarl Mountain along the Western foothills of the mountain to well North of Hoogstede.  Though only a few metres wide each, these quartz porphyry dykes may well have connected the Paarl Mountain granite magma to a Mount St Helens-type volcano way above the magma chamber itself but we’ll never know this for sure because all of the overlying part of the earth’s crust of more than 500 million years ago has long since been eroded away, and no direct evidence remains of a possible granite volcano in the Paarl area.

The “Pearl” (paarl in Afrikaans) lies adjacent to the Afrikaans Taal Monument and forms part of Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve that includes the surrounding fynbos of the area and wonderful examples of wild olives, wagon treed and rock candle wood. The fynbos vegetation supports a number of South Western Cape endemics such as Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. This is one of few reserves administered by a local municipality.

Activities at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

There’s a variety of things to do at the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve.

On the way to the Nature Reserve, you’ll find the historic Afrikaans Language Monument. This monument offers a tranquil beauty of the Drakenstein valley and a variety of events and entertainment happens at the monument. There’s also a coffee shop, where you can just unwind and enjoy refreshments. For more information regarding the Afrikaans Language Monument go to their website or phone +27 (0) 21 863 4809.

At the Mountain Nature Reserve, there’s also a variety of “braai” facilities available for day visitors. “The Meulwater”, “Krismis Camp” and “Oukraal”. There are a variety of hiking trails available at the Nature Reserve as well as biking trails. Visitors can enjoy a nice picnic as picnic amenities are constructed next to the beautiful flower garden where numerous species of Proteas may be viewed. Visitors are also encouraged to climb the Bretagne Rock or catch a bass at Nantes dam, or simply enjoy the panoramic views of the Drakenstein valley and the Waterfall surroundings.

General Information

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve is open to the public throughout the year, including weekends and public holidays.

Entry fees are asked per vehicle as well as per occupant.

A map with all the hiking and mountain biking routes is available at the reserve for a minimal fee.

The map can be acquired on weekends and Public Holidays at the Reserve Main Gate.

It can be  acquired at the Drakenstein Municipality Head Office, the Afrikaans Language Monument and Paarl Visitor Information Centre during the week.


Both a Provincial Angling Licence (obtainable from Cape Nature or the Post Office) as well as a Fishing Permit (obtainable from Drakenstein Municipal offices, Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm or at the Reserve Main Gate over weekends/public holidays and during facility hours) are required for fishing in the reserve’s dams.


As you enter Paarl Main Road via the N1 from Cape Town, take a left at the off-ramp.

Follow Paarl Main Road, go straight over the first robot and then left at the first road on your left hand side (Jan Phillips Mountain Drive).

Follow this road for approximately 6kms until you get to the Meulwater day braai & picnic site.  Alternatively, follow the road leading up to the Afrikaans Language Monument (Gabbema Doordrif Road) and take the dirt road turning off to the right (Jan Phillips Mountain Drive) leading past the Amphi Theatre, until you reach the Meulwater day braai & picnic site picnic area.

GPS Co-ordinates: Lat: -33° 45′ 27.594″ Long: 18° 56′ 50.3658″

Facility hours

Summer: 07h00-19h00 (1 Oct – 31 March)

Winter: 07h00-18h00 (1 April – 30 Sept)

Note: No entry is allowed 1 hour before closure times.

Important information

Remember, there are no shops on the reserve, so bring along your own fire wood, grid and supplies. Strictly no dogs or music is allowed in the reserve and day camps. No horse riding facilities available. Only licenced vehicles, no off-road motorbikes and/or quad bikes allowed. No larger than 22 seated busses are allowed. There are no swimming facilities on the reserve. Please help us keep the mountain clean by using available refuge bins.

This is a high fire risk area – STRICTLY NO FIRES in areas other than demarcated braai/camp facilities. Report any fires immediately!

Reserve contact details

  • Address: Jan Phillips Mountain Drive, Paarl 7620, Western Cape, South Africa
  • Tel: +72(0) 82 744 5900 / +27(0) 82 335 0461
  • Enquiry:

Other important contacts

Drakenstein Fire Brigade                             Tel +27(0)21 872 1404

Drakenstein Law Enforcement                  Tel +27(0)21 807 6472

Paarl Police (SAPS)                                         Tel +27(0)21 807 4000

Cape Nature                                                   Tel +27(0)21 871 1535/6    

Paarl Visitor Information Centre               Tel +27(0)21 872 4842      

Afrikaans Language Monument   Tel +27 (0)21 863 4809/0543/0542